2012-13 Renovation Inspiration Contest: Guest bath an ingenious mix of old and new

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When John M. Tate built this house in 1877, he spared no expense on the upstairs bathroom. The plumbing contractor installed a fine clawfoot tub and a porcelain sink ringed with hand-painted flowers in what was likely one of Sewickley's first bathrooms.

A century later, the house is once again on the cutting edge of bath technology, with a handicapped-accessible curbless shower, travertine and limestone tile, and a clever design and reuse of materials. The new guest bathroom is the latest project in Peter and Linda Floyd's 30-year renovation and was chosen as a runner-up in the 2012-13 Renovation Inspiration Contest, small category (under $50,000).

The contest, which is sponsored by Dollar Bank and judged by staff from the Post-Gazette and Design Center Pittsburgh, draws many entries involving kitchen and bath renovations. This was Floyds' second bathroom project -- the first was a new master bath over a garage addition -- and just one of a long series of projects that began when they moved to Sewickley from the North Side in 1983.

"We started before we moved in, and we haven't really stopped," said Mrs. Floyd.

When they moved, the couple had just finished renovating and adding onto another 1870s house on Perrysville Avenue, but the Sewickley house was different -- it was worth saving. Luckily, Mr. Floyd had brought along much of the woodwork, doors and other items salvaged from the North Side house. Thirty years later, he's still using it.

"I don't throw anything away," he said, laughing.

The original master bathroom, whose clawfoot tub has been fitted with a Victorian-looking shower head, was just one element worth preserving. In the parlor are beautiful stained-glass windows with odd subject matter -- a spider and a beehive. Did growing up with those windows have a subconscious effect on their two children? Mr. Floyd thinks so: "Our one daughter is a Web designer in New York. The other one keeps bees in Boston."

When they decided to redo the kitchen in the rear of the house, the couple looked to a bay window on the front for inspiration. Stacked bay windows now illuminate the charming kitchen and a former maid's bedroom upstairs, which became the master bedroom. It's much quieter on this side of the house, the Floyds said.

The couple's tendency to stretch projects over years has caused some consternation in the borough. When work started on the addition, a borough official wondered why the Floyds hadn't applied for a building permit. Mr. Floyd pointed out that they had gotten one several years before and that it had no expiration date.

"They now have the Peter Floyd two-year limit on building permits," said Mr. Floyd, who is a board member of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society.

His love for old buildings is obvious as he described his efforts to re-create corbels and trim on the pergola and gazebo he added to the back of the house. The columns were salvaged from a nearby mansion that burned down. The glass roof on the pergola was his idea, too.

Mrs. Floyd had talked for years of redoing the tiny guest bathroom that a previous owner created from part of a bedroom in the 1950s. In February 2008, Mr. Floyd began sketching a new handicapped-accessible bath for his mother-in-law. He was stumped by where to put the waste stack until plumber Henry Dufala came through. His solution was to gusset floor joists that ran in the wrong direction. This allowed them to move the toilet and accommodate the shower. Sewickley Plumbing did the work, which also included running the stack through the dropped ceiling of the coat closet below the bathroom.

The Floyds came up with solutions to other problems. Mrs. Floyd suggested extending a wall next to a chimney to mount the sink and create a chase for electrical lines and plumbing. Mr. Floyd saved precious space by cutting old doors lengthwise to create bi-fold doors and reused old transoms from downstairs to bring more light into the bathroom.

After 30 years, you might think the couple have run out of projects. Then Mr. Floyd pointed to the front of the house, where columns and trim await repair and paint. And his wife acknowledged that they are not quite the same people who moved in three decades ago.

"Your tastes change," she said. "It may be about time to do some things over."


Kevin Kirkland: kkirkland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1978. First Published February 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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